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The Toronto Sun CareerConnection

Canadians falling into 'workaholic trap'

By Linda White
Special to The Sun

With prime vacation season just around the corner, many Canadians are putting the finishing touches on their vacation plans. Will your holiday be jam-packed with tourist attractions? Will you kick back at the cottage? Or will you forgo a vacation altogether in order to stay on top of your work?

According to a recent survey, too many Canadians are falling into the "workaholic trap" instead of taking time to recharge their batteries. In doing so, they're not only risking their health, but can also be hurting their employer's bottom line.

"People believe if they work harder, they'll be able to produce more," says stress and wellness expert Beverly Beuermann-King. "But that roller coaster has all kinds of negative health risks ... We're more pessimistic, moodier, edgier and lose our focus. Our creativity starts to suffer and we're not as good at problem solving. We suffer more headaches and more flus and colds. Because our minds keep racing, we also have sleep issues."

Beuermann-King, owner of Work Smart Live Smart near Toronto, is travelling the country to share the findings of a Global Deprivation Survey.

She believes it's in an employer's best interest to ensure their workers take a vacation.

"Prescription drug use is skyrocketing and short- and long-term disability leaves are increasing," she says. "Progressive companies are monitoring their employees to make sure they take vacations. On the other end are employers who look at vacation time as an inconvenience."

Work clearly comes first for many Canadians (see sidebar). Though some say they simply can't afford a holiday, others fear they'll fall behind. "They feel they're going to miss out on too much and decisions will be made without their input," Beuermann-King says. "In doing so, they're jeopardizing their work-life balance."

The benefits of taking a vacation are many. "It's a chance to step out of a situation and to increase your focus," Beuermann-King says. "We tend to sleep and eat better when we're on vacation and to slow down, which is great for our bodies."
Compared to many countries, Canadians are vacation deprived, warns a Global Vacation Deprivation survey commissioned by Expedia and conducted by Ipsos Reid in Canada and Harris Interactive in the United States, Great Britain, France, Germany and the Netherlands. Among its findings:
  • France leads the pack with an average of 39 vacation days given per year, followed by Germany with 27, the Netherlands with 25 and Great Britain at 23. North Americans are at the bottom of the list, with an average of 21 vacation days given per year in Canada and 12 in the United States.
  • In France, 25% of workers have cancelled or postponed a vacation because of work obligations. In Canada, the number is slightly less at 23%, followed by Germany at 22% and the US with 19%.
  • Ipsos-Reid conducted the Canadian poll in April, interviewing a randomly selected sample of 1,274 employed Canadians. The results are considered accurate to within 2.8 percentage points 19 times out of 20.

    Visit to learn more.

  • On the bright side, Canadians seem to get the most of their vacation time -- 54% say they feel better about their job and feel more productive after a vacation. Only 35% of French employees feel the same way. The difference? It could be too much of a vacation.

    The majority of Canadians take two-week escapes, while many French employees take three- to four-week breaks and Americans take one-week power breaks.

    "The two-week escape tends to the ideal," Beuermann-King believes. "One week and you're just starting to unwind. Being away from work too long revs up the anxiety levels over what you'll find when you return to work."

    If 54% of those surveyed report feeling better after a vacation, what about the remaining 46%? "They're not planning their vacation to meet their needs," Beuermann-King says. "Too many times you hear people say, 'I need a vacation from my vacation.' People are rushing from attraction to attraction to attraction or are trying to visit too many people in too short a time.

    "I encourage people to plan their vacation according to their needs. If your job is mundane, maybe you need some excitement. If you work in isolation, perhaps you need to connect with people. If you work with a lot of people, maybe you want to spend time alone on a beach."

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